While it is highly treatable when caught early, skin cancer can still be dangerous. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer—there is almost one US fatality from it every hour.
Most people have moles, and almost all of them are harmless. A normal mole is usually an evenly colored brown, tan, or black spot on the skin. It can be either flat or raised, round or oval. Moles usually don’t change in size, shape and color for many years; some may fade away over time.
A mole can be present at birth, or it can appear during childhood or young adulthood. Ask your doctor to check new moles that appear later in life.
Signs of Skin Cancer
Any unusual sore, lump, blemish, marking or change in how an area of the skin looks or feels may be a sign of skin cancer or a warning that it might occur, according to the American Cancer Society. If a a mole’s size, shape or color change, it may show that a melanoma is forming.
Pay attention to any new spot on the skin; a mark that shows changes in size, shape or color; or a spot that looks different from all the rest. With any of these warning signs, get your skin checked by a doctor.
Could It Be Melanoma?
Use the ABCDE Rule to watch for melanoma:
Asymmetry–one half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other half.
Border–the edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
Color–the color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white or blue.
Diameter–the spot is larger than about a quarter-inch (the size of a pencil eraser)–although melanomas are sometimes smaller than this.
Evolving–the mole is changing in size, shape or color.
Other warning signs of melanomas include:
- A sore that does not heal
- Spread of pigment from the border of a spot to surrounding skin
- Redness or a new swelling beyond the border
- Change in sensation – itchiness, tenderness, or pain
- Change in the surface of a mole – scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or the appearance of a bump or nodule
Show your doctor any areas that concern you or that show any of these irregularities. Ask your doctor to check areas that may be hard for you to see.